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Prosecution In Taped Beating Rests Without Calling Motorist Rodney King

March 17, 1992

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ The prosecution today rested its assault case against four policemen without calling Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by officers during a traffic stop last year sparked national outrage.

″The people will rest,″ said Deputy District Attorney Terry White shortly after he had played for jurors once again the infamous videotape of King being clubbed and kicked by a group of policemen.

The prosecution called 21 witnesses in nine days of testimony. The bulk of its case focused on Officer Laurence Powell, who was accused of inflicting the most blows on King after he was down.

The judge then said he would hear motions by defense attorneys to dismiss charges. Defense witnesses are scheduled to begin testifying Wednesday.

Sgt. Stacey Koon, 41, and Officers Powell, 29, Timothy Wind, 31, and Theodore Briseno, 39, are charged with the March 3, 1991, beating of King after a high-speed chase. The beating was videotaped by a neighborhood resident, and broadcast of the tape spurred national outrage.

In today’s session, Deputy District Attorney Alan Yochelson elicited virtually the only prosecution testimony against Briseno. He asked police Detective Addison Arce to point out on the tape the point at which Briseno uses his boot-shod foot to kick a prone King. Then he entered Briseno’s shiny black boots in evidence.

The absence of King on the prosecution witness roster led to speculation that defense attorneys might call the beating victim as a hostile witness, trying to prove that he incited the attack. He could also be called later as a rebuttal prosecution witness.

Defense lawyers have focused on King’s bizarre behavior in an attempt to justify the beating. They have stressed that officers thought King was under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug, PCP.

Doctors who examined him testified that King was not suffering from PCP intoxication.

Commenting on the surprise decision by prosecutors not to bring King before the jury, Steven Lerman, King’s attorney, said, ″The videotape is Rodney King’s testimony. He can’t add anything beyond what is on the videotape. He was too busy getting his head pounded.″

Lerman is handling King’s civil lawsuits, separate from the criminal charges.

He suggested the prosecution’s move to not have King testify was motivated by a desire to prevent racial issues from entering the trial. King, who is black, has said the officers hurled racial epithets at him. Jurors have not heard any testimony about racial matters.

Earlier in the case, Deputy District Attorneys Terry White said he expected the 26-year-old King to testify.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment under a self-imposed gag order encouraged by Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg.

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